Thursday, November 28, 2013

Dawson's Creek has been cathartic

This is my second time going through the series.  I watched it at first on DVD (yes, Benny got me the whole series for $20! =P) and finally got to put together the bits and pieces I watched over the years.  I don't remember my impression of it after that viewing but in the midst of season 5 during round two, my biggest reflection has been friendships.

I find myself sorely lacking in that department lately, at least in the close-knit kind.  I had a good bunch before but due to one reason or another they fell away.  Watching Dawson's Creek, seeing the characters untangle the whys and hows of relationships is helping me realize what went wrong and that, in the end, I am still worthwhile to have as a friend.

Yes, it's done a number on me, to the point that I've closed myself in from reaching out often enough to create a strong connection with people.  I should say they've done a number on me, as it was a series of events which brought me to this place.  Of course, I have some responsibility to shoulder, but let's just say I don't have much issue in that department.  What I need to remind myself of is that it takes two to tango, and when one person stops dancing, it's hard for the partner to continue the tango.  Abandoned partner can't keep feeling bad for being abandoned.

Just for myself, I'll list out the situations which keep coming to mind and which I believe I've come to terms with.  Yes yes, there's a part of me that says "Read this list of unfair friends!  Feel sorry for me!" but really, I don't even know if anyone's reading this at all, never mind this far.  So, hear are the things I'd highlight to my psychiatrist.  Grab a bowl of chips and enjoy my pity party.

1. My best friend from high school.  I always wondered what happened to our friendship, that we went from always sharing things to all of a sudden nothing.  I thought it was just time and distance (which wasn't very far, we were still in the GTA!) but I realized in the last year that I was essentially dropped.  Many things feed into this point but basically, I was no longer of any use in her next phase of life so she stopped contacting me.  There were others who were more stylish, more good looking, more worldly, and they could bring her into life beyond university (or high school, really) where I would simply be a tag along.  Silly me thought that friends go for broke for each other unless a real big blow up happened - which easily could have, considering she did betray me once and somehow ended up blaming me for it.  I let that pass, and we trucked on for another year or so while I became her emotional dumping place.  When I cut those short - how many giddy 1 am calls am I obligated to take? - the contact became less frequent and eventually stopped.  We resumed briefly for my wedding, then I hardly heard from her again until my brother told me she was on maternity leave.  After 2 attempts to meet up with 2 cancellations but no rescheduling, I gave up.  Hurt, I just retracted into my shell.  Why put myself out there if she doesn't want me anyway?  What sucks the most is that I never knew why and for the most part, I don't really know her conscious reason for dropping me, but I wish we could have at least talked about it.  In her eyes, I suppose I wasn't even worth that.  Incredibly selfish, I have to say.  But up till 2 years ago, I couldn't really muster up to say that.  Now I can, but with a heavy heart still.

2. My 3 guy friends from high school.  I loved them, they loved me, but boy, did they have issues with Jesus! And that took a toll on me in ways I never knew.  They made me scared to talk about my faith with all the quips they made, and I'm not one to retort back on sensitive subjects.  I realize now that true friends, even when they disagree about a life choice, don't blatantly throw the disagreement in a person's face.
Another issue I realized I had with them is that they, too, drop friends, although they may give an explanation.  The one given to someone who was dropped - and who I thought was tight in their circle - was that he was boring.  I laughed when I first heard the story but I realize now that I became anxious about my "performance" as a friend.  Was I funny enough?  Am I laughing at the right jokes?  What a burden!  All in all, if I can't be myself around them, how much can I call them friends?
Mind you, they have still kept in touch with me, sparingly as it might be, and I would still trust them with my life.  We've had some discussions, although clearly I still have some hang-ups, but those things don't happen any more.  They've even apologized and affirmed that they do love me. =)

3. Other friends.  Like the one who was always watching TV when I called and instead of arranging another time to talk, had me chatting on the phone while the show continued and paid more attention to the show than me.  Yes, I kept calling this person despite that because, well, I didn't realize I was being prioritized below a TV show.  I just thought that's the way this person handles phone calls.  I have more self-worth now, but still hurt over it.  Yeah yeah, it was over a decade ago, but these are latent realizations okay? =P
 Then there were the guy friends (different from above) who had to show case their manhood by putting down everyone who wasn't like them.  We laughed about it then, still laugh about it now, but I realize now how hurt I was by those things.  We grew up together but grew apart because my responsibilities after university were different from theirs.  Being an introvert didn't help either - not because I was shy around them, but because I was too tired sometimes to go out with them.  That drove me to the outskirts of the circle and lo and behold, I barely hear from them anymore.
Then there were generally those who would always call me to get advice or to wax on about their lives.  It's not that I don't want to help, because I did, but looking back, they never really asked about me.  Maybe I should have just brought things up anyway but there wasn't anything dramatic going on in my life.  And just generally, isn't it common courtesy to ask about the other person and not only talk about oneself?
There were also friends in ministry who, I felt, left me hanging dry at times.  I see now that we differed in personality styles much bigger than we thought but at the end of the day, rude is just rude, and letting me do all the grunt work while not sharing in the credit just really sucks.  I mean, yes I did it for God and I'm glad my efforts and ideas really paid off, but as a result I ended up leaving a place I called home for over a decade and was left watching the youth I helped (start to) shape grow up without me and with barely a remembrance.

So all of the above led to some friendship burn out for me.  I didn't realize it then but I'm reaping the consequences now.  I should correct one thing: I was going through some drama of my own, but I thought it was beyond their scope.  Perhaps I should have just shared with them anyway, ah well.  But back then, part of my reasoning was that I was supposed to be there for them.  It never really occurred to me that they needed to be there for me too.  So I stoically sucked things up and did what I could on my own, with some advice from a few older and wiser counselors.

Where does this leave me?  I wistfully enjoy watching Dawson's Creek, admiring how the characters fought for their relationships or at least vocalized what was wrong with them.  I wish I had done the same so that I could have friendships to fight for now.  But what's done is done, and may I do better with the friends God eventually brings my way.  The past still hurts but I hope they help me mature in future friendships rather than restrict me.  What I take most from this is that, despite all the hurts, perceived or real, I am worth while to have as a friend and deserve to be treated well, not just because God sees me as worth while but because God has formed in me some pretty great things to share with others.  I just need to remember that, every day, because so many things in this world are helping me forget.

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